When I write for DH, the inspiration usually comes from a reaction to a feeling, either personal or political (which it turns out are often the same). It was suggested to me from the beginning of this project that I “just write how I write for performance” - which is what I did. Since the work didn’t quite fit into the model for television, I was then given the advice to work in a place for DH to live, a sidekick for her to run around with, recurring characters, a theme, etc etc, to make it more friendly as a series idea. But those elements were not in reaction to anything real for me, so they did not feel good or exciting. For example, if it was necessary for me to have a sidekick for DH, it would have arisen organically because that is what the story would inherently demand. It would be neccesary somehow to keep the concept alive. And if she lives in a giant purse, there has to be a reason for me to do so, even if no one knows about it! In a sense, without an emotional or conceptual need, who cares?
In addition to that lesson, I also learned to trust your instincts artistically and to say what you are thinking when there are other people involved in what you are doing that can/will be affected by what you are thinking. Sounds quite simple, but it was very difficult for me to grasp this concept. I have always thought that other people sorta new better than me when it comes to most things. In this case, since I have never made a TV show, dealt with TV people or really knew anything about it, I went along with whatever was happening whether it felt “right” to me or not. This made for long string of painful waffellings to and fro - because even though I looked to others for decision making, I continued to be bothered by them and go back on my decisions repeatedly.
You may say...Jibz, duh. Everyone knows this. Well I did not. Like many universal truths, I know them conceptually, but would rather die than practice them in reality.
For many of us making art is a way and a means to fight loneliness. We use art to connect to ourselves and to an audience.
For some of these same reasons I was drawn to collaborate with Jibz. What better way to fight the sometimes empty feeling creation can leave than to make art with friends? What better way to get rid of or soften the almost constant blows of self-doubt I face when working alone?
Collaboration for a time seemed like the perfect solution, I could be creative and hang out with Jibz. I could be my best self more of the time because someone else was watching. I could get instant gratification from a joke I told, when Jibz would laugh.
Collaborative art making is another type of intimate relationship, unique but reminiscent of friendship, familial bonds and romantic relationships. And like these other close relations, collaboration can be fraught with dysfunction, hidden emotions, jealousy, and the queen of all dysfunction, paranoia.
When Jibz and I started our collaboration in 2007 on The Quiet Storm, I was finishing up grad school at Columbia. I felt repressed and confined by the narrative structure that Columbia assigned to all its' student work. Before grad school at Columbia I had made very strange videos about whatever I was drawn to at the time, I went to CalArts where doing what you wanted was encouraged and rewarded.
So collaboration with Jibz was a way out of that Columbia structure, which I feel like was really detrimental to my creativity. I could be free and weird again and I had a cohort who was right there, being even weirder and funnier than I imagined.
So why did everything go south after this? Was it the involvement of other people? Was it the imagined audience and confines of a network's expectation? Was it the awful realization that other people had made similar looking videos before us and been really successful at it?
My guess is that numerous factors contributed to the breakdown of our collaborative relationship. Like the breakdown of any relationship, it's never just one thing and it's no one's fault. But it feels shitty nonetheless. Really shitty.